Best of 2011 – Generation Game
Nominated by Ed and Richie
As time and gaming progress, it can be easy to feel left behind, for that ‘Werther’s Original’ generation thing to become less of a joke and more of a sobering reality. Teens and even gamers in their early twenties have grown up without some of those early gaming staples, outside those formative years that shaped everything about our hobby, from journalism to graphics to gameplay, and it can be sad when you consider that you have. Some people have no idea of that groin-stimulating feeling when a cart thud-clicks into place in a beloved breeze block of a console. They are angered by loading screens of more than ten seconds (try five minutes) and have no idea of the screeching nightmare a loading Spectrum can be when it is past your bedtime, or the heart-wrenching meaning of R Tape loading error. The very idea of a game that had no end or was physically impossible to complete would be alien – not to us, unfortunately.
Games are still aimed and marketed at the young demographic – that used to be us. The closer you get to sailing forever from that age bracket where any snot-nosed marketing meat-head would consider that you’d be capable of knowing what a game was, the more soul destroying it gets. For those of us who were in that unique position to grow exactly on course with the gaming industry, to be there on the crest of the wave as it passed through the years into the decades, across the millennium to a bright future, it is a strange feeling. We never thought we’d get left behind, that suddenly, the industry – our industry – which had been twinned with our own growth our whole lives, would suddenly try and move on without us.
We went from having to rely on pocket money to buy our £1.99 releases from the newsagent and getting one or two games a year for Christmas and birthdays (if we were lucky) to being able to fully fund our own hobbies from jobs and careers, spending an inordinate amount. We have the cash (most of the time), the passion, and while we don’t always have the time – ask any gamer – we still buy the fucking things, even if it means they gather dust while we finish work or deal with the latest family shit-storm. We became responsible, we grew up, but we never stopped being gamers. I think some people just stopped seeing us as such. They stopped seeing the people who were always there for the industry that they think they invented, who supported early programmers and studios such as EA and Rare before they became famous.
We don’t see ourselves as old, but I can’t be the only one who is made to feel that way sometimes, whether it is by specific marketing campaigns and nauseating cutesy/childish characters, or otherwise decent games being ‘dumbed down’ or ‘made accessible’. Hormonal teenagers may wank over Chobot or pour over lower demographic Xbox mags, but do they need to act surprised at someone my age reading a gaming magazine or browsing in the objectionable turd that is GAME? People like me are still struggling against folk being astonished that a human with XX chromosomes is a gamer and always has been, but one over thirty? Fuck me, is this a harbinger of the apocalypse I see before me?
We moan, we tut, we despise anyone under the age of twenty one accessing games online, we think people whose first console was a PS2 should be force fed Spectrum noise until they cry blood, but we’re still a key part of this industry, and as long as it doesn’t force any more motion-control bollocks down our throats or keep draining the blood of our beloved classics to feed the souls of their spawn, we always will be. Some gamers may have given up, either by choice, or because they didn’t have the spine to stand up for their hobby against an overbearing partner. Others simply fell by the wayside as life consumed them; some forgot or kept meaning to come back, or got lost and intimidated by the more complex sea of choice now, while still more turned their backs on the jiggly direction gaming is going and returned to the rosy nostalgia of games long gone. But the rest of us remain. We’re still here; we’ve grown and adapted, finding gems and hidden passions along the way, while mourning our fallen comrades who now pass like ghosts behind frosted glass. However dejected and disillusioned we may get, we still ride that wave as the industry we began with carries on (and not necessarily in a direction we’d like). We fight the good fight against the trash-talking whippersnappers of the Playstation generation, against the embarrassing lunacy of the Wii and Kinect, and the tide of piracy threatening the treasures of the humble, indie PC devs. We may be a generation or two older, but we still matter; we’re still gamers.
As for me, I can look back over a hobby that I’ve loved and loathed, that has cost me (and my parents) an incalculable amount – in time, as much as anything – and feel relatively content. The so-called ‘youth market’ of today may be the only bracket that the narrow minded marketing Dementors see, but we’re still here… and my Patronus looks like Zool, you pricks.
In a moment of whimsy, I thought I’d finish with a list of sorts, because my Werther’s Original got stuck in my throat and my singing voice has gone to shit.
I come from a generation where…
- Dizzy wasn’t a rapper, he was an egg with ADHD
- Booty wasn’t slang for arse, but was a tough-as-nails pirate game on the Spectrum
- Games cost £1.99
- White plastic was a no-no
- Box art was never more misleading
- Some games had NO graphics whatsoever
- Fanboys fought over Commodore, Sinclair, and Oric, not Playstation, Microsoft and Nintendo
- Bedroom coders were invented
- We were lucky to have 48k
- Collision detection distance seemed to be as much as a damn centimetre at times
- The ill-informed, mainstream, hand-wringing press had bigger fish to fry
- An achievement was something gained by making it to the end of a game without your bladder giving out or your parents calling you to dinner
- Despite squirming about it now, we ALL pirated a game at some point
- Cyclone was a helicopter game, not a washing machine
- Elite wasn’t slang used by twat teenage clans, but was a genre defining classic
- Games about school vandalism and violence were celebrated
- Making hand-drawn maps of text adventure games took more time than actually playing them
- If it had the word ‘Strike’ in the title, it would kick your arse
- There were no saves
- Games journalism involved ink, paper, and passion
- Typing the words ‘fuck off’ into a text adventure was the height of mischievous rebellion
- Games were harder than a diamond shaped like Chuck Norris’s beard
- We sat down to play games
- Collecting eggs across eight endlessly repeating levels was never more fun
- A toddler who picked his nose was an iconic character
- Magazine pull-outs of maps were hugely exciting
- Games often didn’t have endings, some cruelly looped forever…
- We relied on expensive phone tip-lines and hints in Crash, rather than Google and GameFAQs
- Workbench and Directory Opus were gems in our memories, now lost to time
- Anyone who moved from an Amiga to a PC was a traitor… and we were all, sadly, traitors
Most of all, games seemed to last forever… if only our perceived youth did.
Last five articles by Lorna
- The Sims 3 Island Paradise - Preview
- KickPicks #4
- The Sims 3 University Life - Review
- KickPicks #3
- The Game That Ate Christmas